The Biopolitics of Comics
The Forum for Comics and Graphic Narratives seeks proposals for a guaranteed special session at the Modern Language Association annual conference to take place in Philadelphia from January 4-7, 2024.
During the pandemic, a number of comics appeared that documented individual and collective experiences of COVID while also critiquing the governmental, economic, and social structures that determined such things as access to care and the regulation of bodies. Kendra Boileau and Rich Johnson’s Covid Chronicles: A Comics Anthology (2021) and Thi Bui and Sarah Mirk’s In/Vulnerable: Inequity in the Time of Pandemic (2020) captured examples of such work, and showed how comics could not only document and critique, but also produce spaces for imagining new biopolitical arrangements that pushed back against existing frameworks for imagining shared health across a broad social spectrum of class, race, gender, and ability.
Drawing from comics’ unique capacity to visualize bodies in space, this panel invites papers that explore how graphic narratives represent intersections of health, society, risk, vulnerability, security, and control within and beyond the context of pandemic. How do comics question and reimagine the frameworks, structures, and concepts through which we understand wellness and the body?
Scholars in graphic medicine, disability studies, race and ethnic studies, and queer studies, among other fields, have thought through connections between the body, health and illness, and the state and other structures of power. In comics collections like PathoGraphics: Narrative, Aesthetics, Contention, Community (2020) and Graphic Public Health (2022), scholars and artists have examined how experiences of health and wellness are socially embedded and culturally shaped, and have explored the affordances of comics and graphic narratives for rendering fresh insights into biopower. Likewise, books like Ramzi Fawaz’s The New Mutants (2015) and Scott T. Smith and José Alaniz’s Uncanny Bodies (2020) have considered the ways that comics mediate visual articulations of strong, monstrous, and deviant bodies within the ideological framework of the nation-state. Among the topics that might be addressed are:
● How do comics and graphic narratives reimagine the boundaries of health, illness, life, and death?
● How do narratives of health and illness as events reflect wider cultural categories like race, class, gender, and sexuality?
● How do comics map and locate new forms of biopolitical vulnerability and precarity?
● How do comics and graphic narratives imagine and enact new solidarities for collective mourning and collective mobilization?
● How do comics imagine what Rosa Braidotti has called “new practices of life” to sustain wellness for greater numbers?
Send 250-word abstracts and bios to Kate Kelp-Stebbins (email@example.com) and William Orchard (William.Orchard@qc.cuny.edu) by March 15th.
Those chosen as panel participants will need to be MLA members by April 1, 2023 in order for the panel to be considered by MLA. The MLA Program Committee typically sends out panel acceptances in June.